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James and I often say that “every day is Christmas with us” because we give each other whatever we want whenever we want. We don’t wait for holidays to spread good cheer, spend quality time with family and friends or give gifts.
We hope that all of you are having a wonderful holiday season!
So here we are, enconsed in our little Airstream travel trailer, parked on a large stretch of concrete overlooking the Pacific Ocean on this December 25th.
James reminded me this morning that this is our ELEVENTH Christmas spent together. Truly, his presence in my life is the best present that I receive each year.
The ocean is very choppy this afternoon because of a storm which swept through this morning. Spatters of rain turned to a downpour and the winds buffeted our little silver lozenge at nearly hurricane force. Then it passed, and all day it has been sunny, very windy and a brisk beachside 47 degrees.
This is the first time since Thanksgiving weekend that this RV resort is so crowded. The row of spaces closest to the ocean were mostly occupied earlier today; usually they’re empty because they’re very expensive. The two RVs immediately opposite our site which had blocked our view of the ocean are now gone, hooray.
We had originally planned to spend Christmas with my family in Sacramento, but we’re totally exhausted from our recent near-disaster experience getting stuck in the snow in The Woods on my one day off per week, on Monday. We just aren’t up to driving through heavy holiday traffic today, so we’re staying put. (The family totally understands.)
Besides, I have two shows tomorrow and I would be very tired after such a trip. No need to add stress to an already demanding week of shows.
This six-week run of “Phantom” in San Francisco has been intense, but good in many ways. It’s been nice to be regularly employed, and to make new connections with local musicians here.
We’ve also enjoyed living in our Airstream on more of a full-time basis again, getting back into the rhythm of the show routine which is so very familiar after many years of doing it.
James takes total care of me while I play eight shows a week. I wouldn’t want to do this relentless schedule without his loving, supportive presence. James makes it possible for me to perform this job night after night, week after week. It’s a demanding work routine, and his help is invaluable.
In addition to all the homemaking duties he performs to make our lives run like clockwork, he drives me to and from the train station in Colma, only a ten-minute trip from Pacifica. Then the commute is generally 15 minutes to the Civic Center stop in San Francisco, which dumps me directly at the front of the Orpheum Theatre.
Generally the trains are dependable, although I was delayed BIG-time three Sundays ago, when track maintenance and some other mysterious event (police were dashing by the our train windows, looking in, at one station) turned a 15-minute trip into nearly an hour! I made it to my chair in the theatre pit a bare two minutes before the show started.
That commuting day was very stressful, so I’ve been leaving “home” fifteen minutes earlier to give myself a bit more of a time-buffer. I’d much rather arrive early at the theatre than late.
Such is life in the Big City. So many people depend on services like transportation and electricity, so it’s much more dramatic when they’re not available.
We have made the eight-hour round trip back to our place in The Woods twice during this run; the first time was at the beginning of this month when I wrote my most recent blog post.
The second time was this past Monday. It turned out to be “The Day off from Hell”! Nothing turned out the way we planned.
There was a heavy snowstorm in the Sierras the previous week. Even nearby Nevada City, at slightly less than 2500 feet elevation, received six inches of the white stuff.
Our nearest neighbor Darren told us that at least a foot of snow fell in our meadow, but the steep dirt roads leading to our property were reasonably clear. He was able to get his 4-wheel drive truck up the hill without chains.
We had forgotten to take our chains back to the Bay area after our previous visit in early December (dumb!) so we hoped that we’d be able to get our little car up the hill without them.
No way! We spun out about halfway up the first steep hill leading out from town.
We needed to retrieve our chains from the barn, so we backed the car down to the campground on the main street to see our friend Rich, who had an ATV — an all-terrain vehicle which can negotiate snowy roads.
James rode on the back of Rich’s ATV briefly last summer, but had never driven one. And I’d never even been on one.
Rich showed James how to shift the gears and operate the accelerator (on the right handlebar) and I clambered onto the tiny extension just behind the main seat. With a few little jerks, fits and starts, we were off!
It started snowing as I clung to James for dear life as we buzzed up the snowy, steep hill from town. We quickly passed the point at which the car had not gotten any further, and flew on.
We reached the crest of the hill and went through the gate, then it was downhill the remaining half a mile to our place. We both whooped and hollered with excitement (and on my part, a bit of fear) as we zoomed along in the gathering dusk.
There were a few moments when the ATV slipped and slid a little on the slippery road, but basically it held fast as we flew down through the winter wonderland to our barn like birds.
We got the chains and had an equally exciting mile’s ride back up and down the hills to the campground.
We thanked Rich for lending us his ATV, and then drove the car slowly to the beginning of the road leading up the hill which was still paved, and put on the chains.
This took quite a while in the heavy snowfall and in the dark. Also, it had been a year since James had put on the chains last, so it required some time to refresh his memory.
At last, we were underway up the hill, which had never looked so steep to me as it did at that moment. I held my breath as we approached the slippery section where the car had stopped previously, then let it out with a gust of relief as we successfully passed the trouble spot.
As we approached the short driveway leading to our barn, we decided to back up the car just far enough to clear the road, as it might be difficult to drive out again in the heavy snow.
It was completely dark by this time, and James didn’t see the low bush of pampas grass (which the previous owner had planted, years ago — definitely NOT an indigenous plant!) which was partly buried in the snow behind us.
Crunch! We backed into the bush and dislodged the right lower portion of the bumper; the clips snapped off. James told me that this part of the bumper is called the “ground effects”.
It doesn’t appear to be damaged and all that (hopefully) needs to be replaced are the clips.
Well, at least we were home, finally!
We made several trips trudging through the snow to the barn with our belongings, including a couple of barrels of kerosene for our heater. We haven’t put in last year’s new wood stove yet, and have been using the kerosene heater supplemented by a small electric space heater on the few occasions of cold weather this season. Up until a week ago, it was a very mild winter in The Woods — unlike last year when we started burning wood in late October.
When we departed The Woods a few weeks ago after our first day off, James left the water trickling so we had running water for the toilet (still no working sink in the bathroom or summer kitchen, but this will happen eventually).
We pulled out our laptops and got online. I had to laugh when I thought of what a juxtaposition of elements is present here — we live in a shack in the middle of the woods with satellite internet access!
For dinner, James boiled water in a pot on our little propane stove, and threw in a frozen bag of cream chipped beef. This is affectionately known as “S**t on a Shingle”. He put some bread slices in the toaster oven and we soon had a very nice meal, eaten in bed snuggled under the covers while watching a DVD.
Overnight, it snowed a couple of inches. We got up early on Tuesday to give ourselves what we thought was plenty of time to get to James’ dental appointment near Nevada City.
Since our car had made it home fine with the chains, we didn’t think that there would be a problem getting OUT.
This was not to be.
We got in the car at 9:20, cranked it up and slowly crept up the driveway. Before the first big curve — where the grade rises — we got stuck.
James spun the front wheels in an attempt to gain traction, and ended up dislodging the chain on the right wheel. Part of the link assembly flew into the snow; it took a few minutes to find, and then a considerable amount of time to reattach it properly and then put the chains back on.
The clock was ticking. We didn’t have much time to make the dental appointment.
Chains back on. We got stuck again approaching that curve, so I retrieved the snow shovels from the barn and cleared out tracks at the steepest part.
James managed to get past this successfully, driving up the left fork of the road instead of the steeper right, then turned around to get a running start to make the right fork.
Success. Then the steepest part of hill remained. This was just before the smaller dirt road joins the larger dirt road leading down to town.
No matter what we tried, we just couldn’t get past this section, which was steep and extremely slushy now from the additional snowfall, along with slightly higher temperatures in late morning.
We walked back the quarter-mile to the barn and called our neighbor Buck, who’s also the town’s Postmaster. He agreed to come tow us out with his 4-wheel drive truck after the mail had arrived and been sorted; he could spare a few moments from the Post Office in order to help us.
Since our laptops were still in the car, we decided to play dominoes while waiting for Buck to call.
James notified the dentist that we wouldn’t be able to make his appointment, but managed to get it re-scheduled for later in the afternoon.
Over an hour went by and then the phone finally rang; Buck said that the mail still hadn’t come in because the county road was still icy, so he had to stay at the Post Office to wait for it to come in.
So then I recommended that we call Don, who owns and operates the town’s campground (where we lived temporarily in the summer of ’07 while we got our place ready for habitation) to see if he could help us.
Don immediately agreed — hooray!
James had to call and cancel his rescheduled dental appointment; too much time had passed by then and we just couldn’t make it.
We closed up the house again and trudged back up the slushy hill to our marooned car in the middle of the road, to meet Don.
At the top of the hill where the two dirt roads join, we saw a truck towing another truck up the hill. They had come down the road, hoping to check on their place located further down the hill than our barn, only to discover our car blocking the way. The one truck which had come down the hill tried backing up and got stuck.
Luckily the truck behind them was able to tow them out.
Don arrived at just that moment with HIS truck to help us. The other trucks managed to get out of the way and Don backed down the hill towards our car.
It seemed strange to us that Don didn’t put on his chains beforehand, but since the other 4-wheel drive truck had been able to get out without them (barely), he assumed that he could, too.
Well, he promptly got stuck himself.
So we spent the next 45 minutes trying to dig and push Don out, unsuccessfully. More time was spent putting on the chains, then he was finally able to gain some traction up the hill!
He backed up towards our car and we linked together several long sections of heavy chain. Then it took a while to find a spot under the front of our car to attach the chain to.
At last we were all linked up and ready to go! Don’s truck made it up the hill and he successfully pulled our car out.
We detached from Don’s truck, thanking him profusely for his help.
From there, it was a relatively easy matter for us to make it up the gently sloping hill to the gate, then steeply downhill to town.
We stopped at the Post Office at the bottom of the hill, where the mail had finally arrived at 2 p.m. (several hours late) and picked up our mail which had accumulated over the past three weeks.
It was now 2:30 and we had to drive back to San Francisco in time for my 8:00 show.
This might have seemed like plenty of time to make the nearly four-hour drive, but the highways between Nevada City and San Francisco tend to be crowded during late afternoon rush-hour. Plus, there would be especially heavy traffic two days before Christmas.
Well, we got all of that, and more!
We were delayed several times near Sacramento, then again as we approached the densely populated Bay Area.
It was 5:30 when we realized that we would never make it back to where our trailer is parked in Pacifica, south of San Francisco, with enough time for me to change into my black pit clothes, then take the train back up to the City to the theatre for the show.
I needed to find a department store to buy new black clothes, then James would drop me off at an outlying train station to get to San Francisco. This would provide me with an extra hour of time.
We remembered that there was a Marshall’s in Walnut Creek, so we struggled through the holiday shopping traffic to get to the store, found a suitable pair of black dress pants and a collared shirt, waited fifteen minutes in the checkout line and then James got me to the Lafayette train station.
Twisting and turning in the passenger seat, I changed into the black clothes as James drove.
I caught the 6:20 train into the City, and arrived at the Orpheum Theatre by 7:05 — an hour before the show started. I wouldn’t have made it in time had I tried to go “home” first.
WHEW again. What a day.
Needless to say, both James and I were exhausted. We still are.
During one of our highway-as-parking-lot-moments near Sacramento, James made the wonderful suggestion that we beg off our family visit on Christmas Day, and just stay put in our trailer parked in Pacifica instead. Neither of us wanted to travel after our recent disaster — especially with double show days immediately before and after the 25th.
I was thankful that James took the initiative to email my sister-in-law in Sacramento to tell her about our adventure and that we wouldn’t be there for the holiday.
My family understands completely, and the “funny” thing is, they had just returned from visiting some of her relatives who live in Pacifica (quite near where we’re currently parked at the beach) and it had taken them nearly four hours to drive back to Sacramento. This is normally a two-hour trip. It was the same day that we were driving in the opposite direction to get me to the show.
I think that it was easier for them to understand our wishes to stay put, now, after having had this experience being stuck in heavy traffic themselves!
So here we are. James has been cooking a ham in the oven all afternoon as I’ve been writing this post, he’s made stuffing per my request, and cocktail hour is quickly approaching.
We’re having a lovely day here by ourselves in our little silver cocoon parked by the beach.
Happy Holidaze, All! And the happiest of New Years.
After a very hectic but successful first week of shows, James and I drove back to The Woods yesterday afternoon for our one day off. He’s got a dental appointment in Nevada City this morning and then we drive back to San Francisco for tonight’s show. (We’ve got nine shows this week to make up for having Thanksgiving off last week.)
I am always amazed at how QUIET it is at home. Only the sound of a barking dog, a mile down the hill on the main street, could be heard on the crisp, cold starry night.
The barn feels bare without the Airstream trailer in it. There’s no fully-functional kitchen or shower in the adjoining rooms. As a temporary measure, James has a garden hose attached from the well to the toilet in the barn bathroom, but the sink isn’t hooked up yet, nor is the one in the modular metal sink unit in what we call the Summer Kitchen.
We have a small refrigerator and freezer in the Summer Kitchen, and a toaster oven and a propane cooktop stove with two burners. So James “whipped up” frozen lasagna for dinner last night which was actually quite good.
We slept under a mound of blankets on the bed in the Music Room and I got up a few times to turn the small electric heater on and off throughout the night. It got down just below freezing outside, and in the upper 40s inside.
We also have a kerosene heater which warms up the room nicely. James made a pot of tea on the propane cooktop stove and I am sipping on it at my usual spot at the diningroom table.
It’s time to pack up and head down the hill, but before we do, I am posting a video of our trip to the beach and some shots of the Pacific Ocean. I could not upload the video from the RV park wi-fi, which is very capricious.
Perhaps I’ll bore you with the story of the wi-fi company, TengoInternet (which we “lovingly” call NO-TengoInternet!) in a future entry.